Cambodia U22 player Sos Suhana (l) was lauded for his performance during their 3-2 win over Hong Kong on Saturday. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
The Cambodian U22 squad can expect a sterner test against Thailand in today’s 2013 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers clash after getting off to an encouraging start to the 10-day tournament on Saturday with a 3-2 victory over Group F minnows Hong Kong at the Chao Anouvong Stadium in Vientiane.
On the same field at 4pm today, Cambodia face regional powerhouse Thailand, who lost 4-2 to North Korea in their opening match on Saturday.
Assistant coach Hok Sochetra told the Post by phone from Laos yesterday Cambodia would employ the same formation as they did in their game against Hong Kong but with a slight change in the starting line-up.
“Physically, we are smaller than our opponents like Hong Kong and Thailand. However, we will keep playing with a good spirit and teamwork,” Sochetra said.
“Both players and coaching staff will want to make a new record in Cambodian football,” he added, referring to the Kingdom’s ignominious record of having never beaten their neighbouring rivals in any international competition at any age level.
In Saturday’s game against Hong Kong, Phnom Penh Crown midfielder Sos Suhana gave his team the lead in the 10th minute. Shortly after the break, defender Yuen Tsun Nam grabbed an equaliser.
Soon after came a moment of high drama as centre back Sok Sovan was knocked unconscious by the elbow of a Hong Kong player.
The Cambodian was sent straight to hospital, and the game was delayed for about 10 minutes.
“Our players and coaching staff had a very bad feeling during that time, [but] then we tried to focus on the match,” team manager Vann Ly said.
Sovan was discharged from hospital later in the day, and Ly praised the help of the Hong Kong side’s doctor in the absence of adequate medical staff at the ground.
Sovan seems likely to be used off the bench for today’s game.
Striker Phourng Soksana got the Cambodians back in the game with a 63rd-minute strike. Seven minutes later, Nen Sothearoth, who had replaced the injured Sovan, made it 3-1 from a free kick.
Seconds before the final whistle, however, substitute Tsang Kin Fong sneaked a second goal for Hong Kong to end the tie at 3-2.
Sochetra named Suhana as his man of the match. “To be honest, all of our players did a great job, but Suhana has improved with every match. In this game, he displayed great finishing,” the assistant coach said.
Thailand, however, will pose a much greater threat. Their U23 team are one of the top sides in the region, having won the SEA Games gold medal four years in a row, and their U22 team are coached by Brazilian-German Alexandre Polking.
Most of the Thai players featured in the Asian Football Confederation U19 Youth Championship squad that beat Cambodia 5-0 in the group stage in Yangon last September.
In Saturday’s late Group F kickoff, China beat hosts Laos 2-0 with goals from Yang Yihu and Bo Jinhao. China will face Hong Kong at the Laos National Stadium at 4pm today before North Korea take on the hosts at 7pm.
In Group G ties played in Yangon on Saturday, hosts Myanmar thrashed the Philippines 5-1 to take an early lead in the standings. Chinese Taipei edged Vietnam 2-1 and South Korea defeated Malaysia 3-2.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ueng Chamroeun at [email protected]